New Mexico Legal Poker

Last Update: March 20, 2015

Online Poker

Update 4/5/2013 – New Mexico is negotiating a gambling compact with the Navajo tribe. The Navajos have proposed adding a provision to the compact that would allow the tribe to withhold required payments to the state from the tribe’s slot revenues if the state legalizes any form of online gambling, including poker. Read the entire story.

Like many states, New Mexico does not have a statute that is directly on point on the issue of the legality of internet poker. The New Mexico Gaming Control Board argues, “Internet gambling is expressly prohibited by Federal law. … Such activity is strictly prohibited and not authorized, approved or sanctioned in any manner by New Mexico regulatory authorities.”

In truth, however, the matter is not so crystal clear. Even though players can’t argue that poker is a “skill game” in New Mexico, they could very well argue that no gambling or betting is taking place in New Mexico if the servers of the online operator are located outside the state.

Live Poker

New Mexico has some of the broadest gambling laws in the country. Section 60-2E-1 of the Gaming Control Act defines a “game” as an activity requiring payment of consideration for receipt of a prize, the award of which is determined by chance “even though accompanied by skill”. A similar definition applies to “bet” under §30-19-1 of the New Mexico Statutes Annotated. Gambling on “games” by making a “bet” is a misdemeanor in New Mexico.

Those definitions prevent poker players from arguing that poker is a skill game and therefore not gambling under New Mexico law. Since sections 30-19-2 and 60-2E-4 of the NMSA criminalize all forms of gambling not authorized by law, and poker isn’t so authorized, live poker is not legal in New Mexico. In fact, in a primer on the New Mexico Gaming Control Board website, the board notes that poker games and poker tournaments are prohibited “if money is paid for the opportunity to play and if money or prizes are being awarded as a result of the outcome of the game.”

However, the usual exception for tribal casinos exists in New Mexico. There are a handful of tribal casinos in New Mexico that offer poker as a “Class II game” under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Home poker games are excepted from New Mexico gambling laws. Under Section 60-2E-3 of the Gaming Control Act, the definition of “game” excludes “an activity played in a private residence in which no person makes money for operating the game”. Unlike other western states, there is no requirement that the players all have any kind of social relationship with each other. As long as the home game is in a private residence and nobody makes money for offering it, the game is legal.

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